4 College Success Tips for Students With ADHD/ADD

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By: Rhiannon Winner, Uloop

Having ADHD/ADD can cause students and parents alike immense stress. There is a never-ending stream of essays, projects, readings, and independent day-to-day chores. The student may not believe in their own abilities due to the diagnosis, and when a parent is too far away to help, it can leave them feeling just as afraid as their child.

But having ADHD/ADD doesn’t spell out the end of a student’s college career. There are plenty of successful students with ADHD/ADD who go on to get jobs in their field.

1. Seek out the right college.

Finding the right college is even more important for students with ADHD/ADD. You need to find a college that will be willing to accommodate your student should they need to make special requests. Most colleges will go to great lengths to help students with ADHD/ADD, but it’s best to ask what resources are available anyway.

Additionally, some students with ADHD/ADD find it almost impossible to succeed in a large, hyper social environment. If you know that your student won’t be able to focus in a large lecture hall or don’t think they’ll be able to receive necessary accommodations from a professor, then they need to seek out either very small classes on a medium sized campus, or apply to a small college with class sizes that suit them.

As a high school senior, there is still time to figure out where your student would fit best. As a college student, transferring is always an option should your student find that attending a large university exacerbates their ADHD/ADD.

2. Get organized.

Organization is the key to success in college. What works varies from person to person, but ideally, your student should find a combination of organization techniques that help them stay on track. Just using one, such as a daily planner, may not be enough. Instead, encourage your student to try a mix of things, such as setting alerts on their phone, establishing a routine, or using a wall calendar.

The establishment of a routine in particular is an important part of staying organized. Your student should plan out times to study, but also times to get meals with friends, exercise, attend clubs, get ready for bed, or anything else they might need to do.

As critical as organization is, make sure that your student is not just planning from day to day. They should know if there’s something big (academically or in their personal life) coming up in a few days or weeks. If they know they have an essay due in two weeks, they should set aside blocks of time every day leading up to the due date to work on it. Don’t let it catch your student by surprise the night before they’re supposed to turn it in. If they expect to spend most of the day at an event, tell them to plan ahead so that they can get all of their homework done before then.

3. Study smart.

Although studying hard may not alleviate test anxiety, it does help a lot of students. Even if your student doesn’t suffer from test anxiety, students with ADHD/ADD need to study in a certain way to succeed.

Many students are inclined to read over class materials or their textbook, but reading is a passive activity. This makes it difficult for many ADHD/ADD students to really engage with and retain the material. Some students find that they retain more information if they change up their study habits. Using a mix of study aids (such as flashcards, games, and studying with another student) in a mix of places (the library, an academic building, a common room) helps students avoid boredom.

Students should factor in breaks, but smart ones. For example, they should not just take a break to watch TV and then get so absorbed that they forget about studying entirely. They need to to plan their studying around meal times, so that they have a nice, social break before getting back to work, or they can plan short breaks. If they set a timer they can ensure they don’t end up on break for longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

4. Ask for help.

A common problem for students with ADHD/ADD is test anxiety. They often know the right answers on a test or exam or whatever else they’re given, but freeze up when the paper is actually in front of them. Plenty of students suffer from test anxiety, and professors are both used to and willing to make accommodations for these students.

Although students can get help if they ask, they should not wait until they’re sitting down to take the test to let a professor know that they need special accommodations. Students can contact professors in advance to see if they’re willing to let them have extra time, a place to complete the assignment separate from the rest of the class, or whatever other accommodations your student believes are necessary.

Every student with ADHD/ADD can succeed in college. All it takes is the right college and the right strategies for handling it. Stick with your gut and make sure your student seeks out help when they need it, and they’ll be on the path to success.

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